When you feel trapped in a situation, know that it is never the circumstances that trap you but your mind. You always have choices. In fact, you have a near-infinite number of them.
However, because only a small fraction of our options appear obvious to us for any given situation, it’s easy for us to fall into the trap of “None of the paths in front of me will lead to a good outcome, therefore, I have no path in front of me at all.” This trap is entirely mental, not real. We feel trapped, but actually, we aren’t.
In an early Suits episode, a mean partner at the law firm where Mike Ross is a new associate tricks him into failing a drug test. When Mike goes to his mentor Harvey, he claims that he had no choice. “Oh, because you had a gun to your head,” Harvey says. “Yes!”
“And what are your choices if someone puts a gun to your head?” “What are you talking about? You do what they say, or they shoot you!” “Wrong. You take the gun, or you pull out a bigger one. Or you call their bluff. Or you do any one of a hundred and forty six other things.”
Corporate law is all about finding a way out of seemingly impossible situations. The other party will drive you into a corner with some weird, antiquated legal loophole, and then, with your back against the wall, it’s your job to find an even weirder one to break the wall down and keep playing.
The ethics of corporate law can sometimes get questionable, but the spirit of independent thinking is admirable. You too have this spirit. Everyone does. You just need to remember it when you feel “trapped.”
When you’re stuck in a bad job but need the money, you don’t have to stay. You can secure another job before quitting. You can get a second job on the side. You can start your own business. You can ask your friends for help. You can talk to your boss, to your coworkers, or even the CEO. You can move to a different country. You can run away into the woods and learn to survive on your own. You have a million options, but unless you’re willing to think outside the box, you won’t see the one that’ll set you free.
The same applies to a broken relationship, financial quagmire, or any other seemingly insurmountable situation. Sometimes, your biggest obstacle will even become your greatest stepping stone. But first, you have to get out of your own way.
The only traps in life are the ones we believe ourselves to be in. Use your imagination, and you’ll never be caged.